Sneak Peek: No. 12 Gophers at Wisconsin

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Go Gophers! Mikayla Bailey
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This Saturday, the No. 12 Gophers will look to bounce back from some tough losses as they take on Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison. Gophersports.com's Jeff Fett takes a look at Minnesota's border rival.

Head Coach: Bo Ryan

Current Record:
13-6, 4-2 Big Ten

Last Year's Big Ten Record:
12-6

Top 5 Leading Scorers: Jared Berggren-12.5 ppg; Ryan Evans-10.9 ppg; Ben Brust-10.6 ppg; Sam Dekker-9.2 ppg; Mike Bruesewitz-7.5 ppg.

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Ryan Evans-7.0 rpg; Jared Berggren-6.4 rpg; Ben Brust-5.7 rpg; Mike Bruesewitz-5.2 rpg; Sam Dekker-3.4 rpg.

Notable Non-Conference Wins:
Arkansas, California

Notable Non-Conference Losses:
Florida, Marquette, Virginia, Creighton

Conference Wins: Penn State, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana

Conference Losses: Iowa, Michigan State

Outlook

Wisconsin is one of those teams you can always pencil in to compete in the top half of the Big Ten and, once in a while, make a long run in the NCAA tournament. This year should be the same. The Badgers have 12 of 14 lettermen returning and a solid freshman class contributing right now.

The season did not get started the way Wisconsin wanted. The Badgers lost Jordan Taylor to graduation and then lost his replacement, Josh Gasser, to a torn ACL. But the Badgers still got off to a 4-0 start in Big Ten play. Ben Brust has been taking the reins leading the Badger backcourt.

Perhaps Wisconsin's biggest strength is inside. Forwards Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans have been making life difficult for teams to pound the ball inside night in and night out. They've also been getting help from athletic 6-7 freshman forward Sam Dekker.

If there is a weakness on this team it is that the Badgers do not have the premier scorer that can light it up night in and night out. They play as a team in every sense of the word.

The Badgers have not missed the NCAA tournament since 1998, and if their backcourt can stay productive, they should make it again this year.

Blog: Gophers Meet Media Before Traveling to Evanston

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Statistically Speaking: Gophers Among National, Big Ten Leaders | Minnesota Game Notes

The Gophers met the media after their Tuesday afternoon practice to preview Wednesday's game at Northwestern. Minnesota picked up a home win against the Wildcats earlier this month, but has not won at Welsh-Ryan Arena since 2008. Sophomore point guard Andre Hollins feels that dealing with the Northwestern crowd will be a factor in the game.
Go Gophers! Andre Hollins
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Dre Hollins will make his second trip to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Go Gophers!

"They play really well at home," he said. "And we have to get back to playing good defense. We haven't played the best defense these past couple games. Taking care of the ball is the No. 1 thing. We've beaten ourselves in almost every game that we've lost. That's going to be key--taking care of the ball, making shots and playing good, sound basketball."

Minnesota won this season's first matchup 69-51 behind Austin Hollins' 19 points, but the Gophers will not take the Wildcats lightly.

"Bill Carmody and his staff, their team--they always find a way to make adjustments to give themselves a chance," head coach Tubby Smith said.

The Gophers are looking to snap a two-game losing streak. After starting Big Ten play with a 3-0 record, the Gophers lost to two of the top teams in the conference in Indiana and Michigan. Minnesota is still No. 12 in the country, and still has a positive outlook moving forward. The Gophers will try to start a new winning streak on Wednesday night.

"We definitely can't let those two losses get to us," senior forward Rodney Williams said. "We've got a long season left ahead of us. This will be a chance for us to show everybody what we've really got."

Statistically Speaking: Gophers Among National, Big Ten Leaders

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By Jeff Fett, Gopher Basketball Beat Reporter

The Gopher men's basketball team is halfway through the season, and the offense that was projected to be a strength before the season is one that is showing up on the stats sheets.

As a team, the Gophers appear in the top 50 out of 345 teams in the nation in several offensive categories right now. They have also lit up the stat sheet in a few areas on the defensive side as well.

*    Won-lost percentage: 83.3% (24th)
*    Final points: 45th
*    Scoring offense: 76.2 points per game (37th)
*    Scoring margin over opponents: 13.7 points per game (26th)
*    Field goal percentage: 47.1% (31st)
*    Rebound margin over opponents: 9.8 (4th)
*    Assists per game: 16.4 per game (18th)
*    Blocked shots per game: 6.4 per game (8th)
*    Steals per game: 9.6 per game (15th)
Go Gophers! Trevor Mbakwe
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Mbakwe has ruled the boards in the Big Ten.
Go Gophers!

So far the Gophers are still in the early stages of the Big Ten season, but they are dominating in blocks per game, which they have done for the last five years. They are also tops in the conference in several other categories as seen below.

*    Blocked shots: 6.4 per game
*    Steals: 9.6 per game
*    Offensive rebounds: 16.0 per game
*    Offensive rebound percentage: 47.9%

Statistically, the Gophers have several players in the top 10 in the Big Ten individually, primarily led by senior forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams. Sophomore guard Andre Hollins is also lighting up the stat sheet in several categories as well.

*    Scoring: Andre Hollins-14.3 points per game (10th)
*    Field goal percentage: Mbakwe- 58.3% (5th), Williams-53.1% (9th)
*    Assists: Andre Hollins-3.7 per game (9th)
*    Free throw percentage: Andre Holins-77.2% (10th)
*    Steals: Austin Hollins-2.1 steals per game (2nd), Joe Coleman-1.6 steals per game (9th)
*    3-point field goal percentage: Andre Hollins- 42.9% (5th), Austin Hollins-41.0% (10th)
*    3-point field goals made: Andre Hollins-2.0 per game (t-8th)
*    Blocked shots: Mbakwe-1.7 per game (3rd), Williams-1.4 (4th)
*    Rebounds: Mbakwe-8.2 per game (t-1st)
*    Offensive rebounds: Mbakwe-3.2 per game (1st), Williams 2.8 per game (2nd)
*    Defensive rebounds: Mbakwe-5.0 per game (6th)

In the conference-only standings, the Gophers top several statistical categories.
Team
*    3-point field goal percentage: 46.8%
*    Assists: 16.2 per game
*    Rebounding margin: 8.8 per game
*    Blocks: 6.0 per game
*    Offensive rebounds: 14.2 per game
*    Offensive rebounding percentage: 45.2%
Individual
*    Rebounds: Mbakwe-10.8 per game
*    Offensive rebounds: Mbakwe-4.4 per game
*    Defensive rebounds: Mbakwe-6.4 per game
*    3-point field goal percentage: Austin Hollins-59.3%
*    3-point field goals: Austin Hollins-3.2 per game

Sneak Peek: No. 9 Gophers vs. No. 5 Michigan

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Go Gophers! MN_IND
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This Thursday evening at the Barn marks one of the most anticipated match-ups in recent Gopher basketball history: No. 5 Michigan takes on No. 9 Minnesota in the first game between Top-10 ranked teams at Williams Arena since 1972 (not counting the vacated season of 1976-77). GopherSports.com's Jeff Fett gives us a quick look at the Wolverines.

Big Ten Preview: Michigan

Go Gophers! fans
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Thursday marks the first match-up of Top-10 teams at Williams Arena since 1977.
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Head Coach: John Beilein

Last Year's Big 10 Record: 13-5

This Year's Big 10 Record: 3-1 (Ws vs. Northwestern, Iowa, Nebraska; Loss at OSU).

Top 5 Leading Scorers: Trey Burke-18.0 ppg; Tim Hardaway Jr.-16.1 ppg; Nik Stauskas-12.7 ppg; Glenn Robinson III-12.3 ppg; Jordan Morgan-6.6 ppg.

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Mitch McGary-5.4 rpg; Glenn Robinson III-5.8 rpg; Jordan Morgan-5.5 rpg; Tim Hardaway Jr.-5.4 rpg; Nik Stauskas-3.2 rpg.

Notable non-conference wins: Pittsburgh, Kansas State, N.C. State, Arkansas, West Virginia, Bradley

Notable non-conference losses: None

Outlook

This year's Michigan team is unlike ones in year's past. The Wolverines still rely on the 3-point ball, but not as much. Michigan also has much more athleticism. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke lead a team that hasn't lost a game this season. To make things worse for the other teams in the Big Ten, Michigan has a freshman class that's making a big impact right now. Power forwards Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and guard Nik Stauskas add depth and more athleticism to a team that already has an abundance of it. Michigan has played well against tough non-conference opponents. They've beat up on West Virginia and Kansas State, and handled N.C. State, who's been in the top 20 all season. The only slight weakness is how young this team is. Three of the Wolverines top six scorers are freshmen this season.

After being upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament last year, the question remains how much has Michigan learned from that experience. The Wolverines should be a strong contender for the Big Ten title this year and if everything falls just right, they should be in the hunt for a National Championship as well.

Sneak Peek: Gophers at Indiana

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Go Gophers! MN_IND
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Gopher Basketball is riding high - the Gophers have started the B1G season 3-0 and are 15-1 overall. Their No. 8 national ranking (AP Poll) is also the highest of the Tubby Smith era and best since the vacated 1996-97 season. The Gophers travel to Indiana Saturday morning for an epic conference showdown; GopherSports.com writer Jeff Fett takes an early look at the Hoosiers.

Big Ten Preview: Indiana

Head Coach: Tom Crean

Last Year's Big 10 Record: 11-7

This Year's Big 10 Record: 2-0 (wins over Iowa and Penn State)

Top 5 Leading Scorers: Cody Zeller-16.5 ppg; Victor Oladipo-13.3 ppg; Christian Watford-12.7 ppg; Will Sheehey-12.1 ppg; Jordan Hulls-11.1 ppg.    

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Cody Zeller-7.9 rpg; Christian Watford-6.5 rpg; Victor Oladipo-5.9 rpg; Will Sheehey-4.1 rpg; Kevin Ferrell-3.3 rpg.

Notable non-conference wins: Georgia, Georgetown, North Carolina, North Dakota State

Notable non-conference losses: Butler

Outlook
Go Gophers! fans
Go Gophers!
The Gophers went into Assembly Hall last season and took down the Hoosiers.
Go Gophers!

Indiana has some big aspirations this season. Not only do they expect to battle for the Big Ten title, they are hungry for a national title this season.

Indiana has everything to expect for a team that could make a long run in the NCAA tournament. They have preseason player of the year in center Cody Zeller. They have solid power forwards in Christian Watford and Will Sheehey. They have an experienced backcourt in guards Victor Oladipo and Jordan Hulls.

Everything is there this season. The only thing stopping the Hoosiers is consistency on the defensive side of the ball. Head Coach Tom Crean has been preaching that to his team, and they have responded. They've only allowed 60 plus points in four contests this season.

Indiana doesn't have many holes in its lineup this season. Barring any major injuries, they should be a serious contender for the Big Ten title. It's also feasible to see them making a run to the final four and possibly the national championship game.
Go Gophers!
Go Gophers!
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Gopher Basketball Blog: A Peek at Illinois

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Go Gophers! MN_NW
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After a 2-0 start in the Big Ten, the No. 8-ranked Gopher men's basketball team takes to the road for their third conference match-up, Wednesday vs. No. 12 Illinois (8 p.m., Big Ten Network). GopherSports.com writer Jeff Fett gives fans a sneak peak at the Illini, who have started the season 14-2 (1-1 B1G).
Go Gophers! Trevor
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Trevor Mbakwe and the Gophers travel to Illinois Wednesday for a match-up with the No. 12 Illini.
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Big Ten Preview: Illinois

Head Coach: John Groce (1st season)

Last Year's Big 10 Record: 6-12

2012 Big Ten Record: 1-1 (W- Ohio State, L - Purdue)

Top 5 Leading Scorers: Brandon Paul-18.5 ppg; D.J. Richardson-10.6 ppg; Tracy Abrams-12.1 ppg; Tyler Griffey-8.7 ppg; Joseph Bertrand-9.3 ppg.

Top 5 Leading Rebounders: Brandon Paul-5.1 rpg; D.J. Richardson-4.7 rpg; Joseph Bertrand-4.5 rpg;  Nnanna Egwu-4.3 rpg; Tracy Abrams-3.9 rpg.

Notable non-conference wins: Butler, Georgia Tech, Gonzaga, Hawaii, Gardner-Webb

Notable non-conference losses: Missouri

Outlook:

Could this be the year Illinois finally grabs a Big Ten championship title? On paper, the Illini have everything going for them.

The Illini have a loaded backcourt. Seniors Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson and junior Joe Bertrand have led the way so far this season. The experience has led the Illini to just one loss in the non-conference season so far.

In the frontcourt, gone is Myers Leonard to the NBA draft, but the Illini have reloaded there. Seniors Sam McLaurin and Tyler Griffey have stepped up in Myers absence, and Nnanna Egwu is showing lots of promise in just his sophomore season.

Last season, Illinois had all of the pieces there as well, but stumbled down the stretch losing 12 out of their last 14 games. Head Coach Bruce Weber was fired, and Ohio Head Coach John Groce was brought into lead the team.

So far, the Illini have played consistent basketball this season. The only weakness this team appears to have is depth. They primarily have a seven-man rotation and in a grueling Big Ten season, one has to wonder if that will hold up come late February into March.

If early season success has anything to do with it, Illinois should be there at the end. The pieces are there for at least an NCAA tournament trip, if they can hold together will determine if they can grab a Big Ten championship.

Gopher Basketball Blog: A Peek at Northwestern

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Gophers vs. Northwestern: Click here to buy tickets!

The Big Ten conference season is underway. The Gophers opened with a win over Michigan State at Williams Arena. Up next is a date with Northwestern on Sunday, Jan. 6. The Wildcats open against No. 2 Michigan on Thursday, Jan. 3 at 6:00 p.m. on ESPN2. Gophersports.com men's basketball beat writer Jeff Fett takes a peak at Northwestern.

Big Ten Preview: Northwestern

Head Coach: Bill Carmody (Union College, '75)
Career Record: 280-220 (17th season)
Record at Northwestern: 188-195 (13th season)

Go Gophers! Trevor
Go Gophers!
Trevor Mbakwe and the No. 9 Gophers host Northwestern Sunday at 6 p.m.
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2011-12 Big 10 Record: 8-10

Top Scorers: Reggie Hearn-14.5 ppg; Dave Sobolewski-11.3 ppg; Jared Swopshire-8.8 ppg; Alex Olah-7.2 ppg; Tre Demps-5.6 ppg.

Top Rebounders: Swopshire-6.0 rpg; Hearn-5.5 rpg; Olah-4.5 rpg;

Notable non-conference wins: TCU, Baylor, Illinois State

Notable non-conference losses: Maryland, Butler, Stanford

Outlook:

The biggest question for Northwestern is can they break the curse this year. Since the NCAA tournament started in 1939, they are the only team in a BCS conference to never have made a tournament appearance. They have also not won the Big Ten conference since 1933.

And so as the drought continues, there bid this year to get into the NCAA tournament took a big hit. Drew Crawford, who was second on the team in scoring and was an NBA draft prospect, is out for the year with a torn labrum.

Sophomore point guard Dave Sobolewski and senior point guard Alex Marcotullio will now have to step up to take bigger roles in the offense.

The Wildcats will also rely on their revamped frontcourt consisting of Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire, TCU transfer Nikola Cerina and freshman Alex Olah.

Northwestern is one of the toughest teams to predict this season. With nice non-conference wins over Baylor and Illinois State, the Wildcats have set themselves up nicely to start the Big Ten season. Expect the Wildcats to finish somewhere in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten. If they can make a run in the Big Ten tournament, they could make a strong case to make a bid for the NCAA tournament.

Gopher Basketball Blog: A Peek at Michigan State

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On Dec. 31, the Gophers open up the Big Ten season with #19 Michigan State at Williams Arena. In preparation for the conference opener, Gophersports.com basketball beat writer Jeff Fett will be doing previews of each of the teams in the conference.

Michigan State Spartans 

Head Coach: Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77)
Record: 423-171 (18th season)
 

2012-13 Record: 11-2
2011-12 B1G Record:
13-5

Leading Scorers: Keith Appling-14.9 ppg; Gary Harris-12.4 ppg; Branden Dawson-9.8 ppg; Derrick Nix-8.8 ppg; Adreian Payne-8.7 ppg.    

Leading Rebounders: Nix-7.8 rpg; Payne-7.5 rpg; Dawson-6.2 rpg; Denzel Valentine-4.2 rpg; Appling-3.5 rpg. 

Notable non-conference wins: Kansas, Texas 

Notable non-conference losses: Connecticut, Miami (Fla.) 

Outlook: 

Michigan State has all of the tools to contend for yet another Big Ten title this season, and should be in the mix to make its usual run in the NCAA tournament. 

There is no question this team has talent. It's backcourt combination of Keith Appling and Gary Harris has been a strong point of the team so far. They are two of the team's leading scorers and know how to find the team's low post scorers as well.

Down in the post, Branden Dawson is back from an ACL injury and is playing well. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne have also provided a formidable frontcourt. Nix is the reigning Big Ten Conference Player of the Week after his 25-point and 11-rebound performance against Texas. 

The Spartans have also shown that they are also deep, having used a nine-man rotation this season. 

Last season, All-American Draymond Green led the Spartans, for the most part night in and night out. One question for Michigan State entering the season was if it could find someone to take his role. Is that Appling or someone else? I think that is still up for debate. 

The Spartans have made 15-straight NCAA appearances so a 16th is almost a certainty.

Hoops Blog: Ten Days of Holiday Giving

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Go Gophers! MBB
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The Gopher men's basketball team will participate in a number of charitable activities in the community this holiday season.
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University of Minnesota Men's Basketball coach Tubby Smith always stresses to his players that giving back to the community is extremely important. The basketball players, as well as all of the Golden Gopher student athletes, are heavily involved in the community thanks to programs headed up by  Peyton Owens and Anissa Lightner in the Student-Athlete Affairs office here at the "U'.

Aside from that, Coach Smith, and the Tubby Smith Foundation, makes sure that giving back during the holiday season becomes a priority. This holiday season's theme will be "Ten Days of Holiday Giving". The schedule is below:

Day 1: Thursday, Dec. 13 - Donation of books to the Stillwater Public Library and its Holiday Children's Book Drive.

Day 2: Friday, Dec. 14 - Donation of children's winter jackets to the Minneapolis Salvation Army.

Day 3: Saturday, Dec. 15 - Donation of children's clothing for the Sabathani Community Center.

Day 4: Sunday, Dec. 16 - Donation of critical nursery needs to the Greater Minneapolis, Crises Nursery.

Day 5: Monday, Dec. 17 - Donation of children's clothing to Neighbors, Inc. as part of the Love Your Neighbor Holiday Program.

Day 6: Tuesday, Dec. 18 - Donation of children's clothing and baby supplies to People Serving People through the Holiday Helpers program.

Day 7: Wednesday, Dec. 19 - Donation of toys to KARE-11's Toys-4-Tots program.

Day 8: Thursday, Dec. 20 - Holiday shopping at Target for clothing for families of East Side Neighborhood Services.

Day 9: Friday, Dec. 21 - Donation of Wii video games to children at Amplatz Children's Hospital.

Day 10: Saturday, Dec. 22 - Donation of Self Care & Bath Kits to the Harriet Tubman Center.

The Tubby Smith Foundation's mission is to be a resource for children and charities that benefit children in the State of Minnesota, who demonstrate a need for financial assistance to improve their physical, mental, educational or overall well-being.

Gophers Tabbed No. 14 in AP Poll

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Go Gophers! Tubby Smith in the huddle
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This is Minnesota's highest ranking since 2010.
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At No. 14 in the nation, the Golden Gopher basketball team currently holds its highest AP poll ranking in Tubby Smith's tenure as head coach. Minnesota moved up from the No. 21 slot it was in last week. The Gophers also made their first appearance of the season in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, checking in at No. 21.

The Gophers (8-1) entered the season outside the top 25, but earned respect of the voters after emerging from the Battle 4 Atlantis--arguably the toughest preseason tournament this year--with two wins and following up with a win at Florida State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Minnesota's highest ranking in the Smith era so far was 13th in the ESPN/USA Today poll on both Nov. 29, 2010, and Dec. 27, 2010.  The Gophers spent 12 straight weeks in the top-25 polls during the 2010-11 seasons.